Monday, October 13, 2014


Photo: An uncopyedited proof, the type given to early readers, or beta-readers.  And, considering the editing job done on this book (see comment below), it apparently remained uncopyedited.  From

Very, very, very disappointing follow-up to Nesbo's Phantom, a far superior book, even with the ridiculous passages from the rat's POV.  In equal parts boring and frustrating--but mostly frustrating--Police is a book that could've been, and should've been, much better. 

It fails because it's all over the place with its plot and story, and because it doesn't focus enough on its characters.  Nesbo said in an interview that he essentially wrote Phantom and Police as one book, and it shows.  At over 1,000 pages combined, it seems like Nesbo couldn't wait to finish with the ending, that even he became bored and frustrated with it.

How else to explain the inexplicable demise of a major recurring character?  How else to explain how the killer could've had the time to draw and quarter this well-liked character while on the run from everyone?  Could the killer really have chopped off her arms and legs and head in (seemingly) minutes?  Then stash them all in different bags and deposit them in the trash just in time for the trucks?

What?!?  And, by the way, didn't this character deserve so much better?  She's rarely considered for the rest of the book--though everyone was sure not to sit in her chair--and it's never explained why she was done away with when other characters were not, even when we were tricked into thinking they would be.

And that was another thing.  Way too many cheap tricks, like making us think a character's young daughter was in danger when her father calls her friend Emilie's house to inquire about her sleepover.  Turns out, she was at the sleepover after all--just at a different girl's house...another girl in the same class, also named Emilie!!!  Ugh...

Another time a character looks like she's about to get it, but it was just another character sneaking up on her.  She even says that, hey, you're not John Doe--but it turns out he was.  She just meant that he wasn't acting like himself.  Please...

Another time a very distraught father was acting strange at the scene of his daughter's death, just after a character in the previous section said that murders were committed by someone distraught about love, and at the death scene of those he loved.  Turns out, though, that this guy was actually just in grief about his daughter dying, one year to the day...Argh!

The real bad guy is a case of who cares.  The ones you wanted to be guilty--two REALLY bad guys--lose an eye and gets his face burnt off, apparently without too many aftereffects or problems.  They go out in public and live their lives as if nothing happened.  Must've been a great surgery for the guy who lost his eye, though the guy who did it was never a doctor or surgeon, or in any health-related field at all.

And who was that body in the hospital all that time?  Not who you think, but considering how Phantom ended, you couldn't be blamed for not knowing.  Turns out, a character from that book hadn't died after all!  How could the reader have known?  Well, you couldn't, but that's the way it is, anyway.

And where's the REALLY, REALLY bad guy everyone spends most of the book looking for?  Nobody ever says.  Wait for the sequel, I guess.  The only intriguing character is a very beautiful, and very unbalanced (Isn't that always the way?) young woman who does something very touching--and out of character--at the end.  You won't believe it, just like I didn't.

Very cheap.  Very lazy.

And really disappointing, because I like the series and I like the writer.  In fact, I was just thinking of incorporating a technique of his that he uses at the end of every book--what some writers have called his "set pieces," which they essentially are, in a play kind of way.  I now realize that these have to be exquisitely staged and described because a) they end every book; b) they're the resolution of the action / mystery / who-dun-it? / police procedural; and c) they're actually the climax, if you combine them with the next book, which I realize is how Nesbo actually writes these.  So they serve a ton of functions.

But, because of this, they have to be perfect.  Great when they are, as most of them have been.  Really bad when they're not.  And when you combine that with everything I've described above, and throw in a lousy editing job (this could've easily been a few hundred pages shorter), you have a real clunker.

And what he did to that recurring female character--chopped her up into many pieces, without mentioning how important she'd been to the series, or her now-orphaned young son--and throw in the fact that she was apparently alive during most of the chopping up...Indefensibly awful.

So bad I'm driven by it to work on my own book, and to treat my characters much better.  Bad things will still happen to them, but they won't be (or remain) unexplained.  And I'll treat them, as I hope I always have, with much more respect.

So frustrating because, again, Nesbo is a good writer, and though the tricks in this book are cheap, they work because you turn the pages.  You want to figure everything out.  You want to see what happens.  You want to see it all unravel.  And in that sense this book isn't awful, exactly, because I read its 550 hardcover pages in about 24 hours or so.

And I'll read the next one, too.


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